Filipino food trending in the culinary world — Bourdain and Zimmern

American food connoisseurs Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Image ©

ANTHONY Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, two renowned American food connoisseurs, said the current trending of Filipino food in the United States would lead to its rise in the culinary world.

Since the two iconic American food connoisseurs have been proclaiming the eventual trending of Filipino food in the United States, it should be noted that their forecasts stemmed from sincere professional estimations and the bequests of their friendships with Filipino Americans.

Very few Fil-Am would disagree with Bourdain when he declared “sisig” as the very likely dish that would “win the hearts and minds,” not only of Americans but of the world as well (interview with CNN’s The Source).

Zimmern, for his part, has said in an interview with Business Insider “their use of acidity, the quality of their food has the best of Asian cuisine and the best of sort of what happens when really good Asian food…island Asian food brushes up against Spanish culture. The Spanish had colonized the Philippines for almost 500 years at one point. So, the influences are heartfelt.”

As the sizzling sisig appears to eclipse the popularity of adobo among non-Filipino foodies, there is also a growing concern that such may just reinforce sideline impressions that Filipino food is mostly flavorful but unhealthy.

Bourdain himself noticed, we make sisig from all the parts of a pig (snout, ear, jowl, tongue, liver and skin) that Americans would not knowingly eat.

Well, FYI Mr. Bourdain, arrozcaldo, not sisig, is the bestseller at the Sari Sari Store inside the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Sisig here is not served on a traditional sizzling plate but as a rice topping.

By the way, in Los Angeles — home to some half a million Filipino Americans — there is a dearth of Filipino restaurants that aim for mainstream clientele and celebrity Filipina Chef Coco P. Cruz explained why.

“It away is a simple matter of practicality,” Chef Coco said.

Chef Coco P. Cruz ©

Because there is a sizable target market, investments are more secured in putting up traditional Filipino eateries as against experimental Filipino restaurants, added Chef Coco who is also into catering and event planning business.

Chef Coco stressed that the eventual trending of Filipino food lies in the courage, energy, skills and creativity of those who venture in non-traditional Filipino restaurants.

“We are lucky we have these personalities (Bourdain and Zimmern) drumbeating for us. They certainly make it easier for us Filipino chefs,” Chef Coco said.

“But nurturing a positive perception for Filipino food would also greatly help our cause,” she added.

To the Filipina chef, the childhood memories of our lolas or nanays obliging us to finish our “sabaw (broth)” as we fight off a lingering malaise could not be dismissed as mere acquiescence to quack doctor’s remedies that abound in the Philippines but a collective affirmation to the efficacy of our sabaw recipes.

“Because those sabaw ng sinigang or nilaga really contained nutrients needed by the maysakit,” Chef Coco stressed.

Sinigang, which uses all kinds of meats and fish, is a broth recipe made from extracts of tamarind, guava, santol, kamias, kalamansi and other local fruits that are rich in vitamin C.

The fruits are boiled and mashed on strainers to extract their juices and mixed with the broth.

“Let’s bring it (the process) back here, let’s do away with those instant powder flavors for our sabaw dishes,” Chef Coco raved.

Popular Filipino vegetables such ampalaya (bitter gourd), kalabasa (squash) and okra — to name a few — are even advertised for their supposed medicinal qualities.

“So I think we have to put the word out for the health conscious people that Filipino food is a great option out there,” the chef pointed out.

Recipes from our Spanish colonial period, according to the Filipina chef, remain under served by those aiming for the mainstream clientele.

“Our menudo, kaldereta, afritada and kare-kare need some more endorsements from our chefs,” chef Coco said.

Menudo is the Filipino take on a classic Spanish soup that remains popular here in LA.

“Kahit na ‘yung pinaghugasan ng bigas (the water used to wash rice), we use that to bring flavor to our dishes. And for me, that is the essence of fusion — using the ingredients and techniques that were passed down to us by our lolas and nanays, and mixing them with what is current to present a dish that stands out as a Filipino dish but is palatable to non-Filipinos,” explained Chef Coco.

Chef Coco grew up in a barrio in the Philippines and experienced gathering and/or catching vegetables and animals that abound in her environment.

“I remember my mom back then, one night when she heard frogs croaking she would say – Do you hear what I hear? Go out and catch some. That would be our dinner for tonight. And my mother cooked them so good because when she cooks, she puts her heart on it. That’s one of the most important lesson I learned from her.”

Before she became a celebrity chef, Coco worked as a helper in a kitchen of a Las Vegas hotel. Her dedication to work was rewarded by a scholarship in culinary arts.

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